jR: "Everyone is really hyped up, it's our first final and none of us felt like this before"
Vega Squadron put on a great performance in the StarSeries i-League Season 6 playoffs, beating Fragsters in the quarter-final and NRG in the semi-finals, to make a run all the way to the BO5 grand final that is about to take place at the Cybersport Arena in Kiev, where they will face the Finnish squad ENCE.
We discussed several topics with jR, among them are the semi-final match against NRG, the expectations Vega Squadron have going into their first grand final, the importance of tournaments like the CIS Minor for a team like theirs, and the difference between offline and online matches.
Let's start with the match against NRG. Both Chet and chopper said it was going to be a back-and-forth aggressive match. Was it everything you expected?
Yeah, it was like a rollercoaster. I think it's because we were both kind of nervous, winning and losing a lot of force rounds. We even won a full eco on Inferno. This is our first event with a stage, and a bit of audience, so it's a new experience for us. The NRG guys are a bit more experienced, but maybe our fans made them be a bit nervous. If this match would have been played online in a normal environment I don't think it would have been as back-and-forth, with teams losing the anti-ecos and so on.
The decider was Inferno, which you played in the group stage. Did you play any mind games on each other?
We had in our mind to not make the same mistakes we made in the group stage because we knew they would punish us again if we did. The thing is that we knew that they weren't going to play as aggressively on Banana as they did in the first match. They were playing kind of passive as CTs and our T side was a bit more free. We got a lot of rounds as CT, but it was close because of those rounds I talked about before, the anti-ecos and so on.
As chopper said in his interview, it's all about how you start on the map, not losing many guns early on, keeping that economic advantage, not letting the opponent win the forces and so on. It's important to be able to have utility and not have to rely on stacks and having to come up with risky strats to try and outplay the other team. The T side went well for us because we knew they were going to play passive and we knew we could just play our rounds, the stuff we planned and discussed before the match.
It's your first time in a grand final, it was an emotional moment after you won last night. How are you feeling now, before the big match?
Everyone is really hyped up, it's our first final and none of us felt like this before. The communication has been getting better every match as we've been going deeper in the tournament, and we hope we can keep the same feeling and the same mood for the final. I just hope we won't get eaten up by nerves and that it will be a good game for everyone so we can enjoy the atmosphere of being in a grand final and remember this moment.
You're playing ENCE now. Have you looked them up a bit, how you're going to match up against them and so on?
ENCE is playing super well. They're a really structured team, but the players aren't afraid of making plays if they feel like it and they'll punish you for your mistakes. Not every team can do this, but they're super confident. We really wanted to play ENCE because throughout the tournament we saw that they're the strongest team at the event and we want to face the strongest opponent in the final. I think it will be a very fun match to play.
When you faced NRG, it was that aggressive back-and-forth sort of match. How do you think this match will play out?
It will most likely depend on if ENCE will let us play aggressively. If they do, we'll play aggressively, for sure. If not we'll play a more passive and adaptive playstyle to try and find the gaps we can use to outplay them. We'll feel it in the moment.
I'm going to change the topic a bit now, and ask you about the CIS Minor. That's what launched you out of the CIS region and what launched you into the international sphere. Do you think that tournament is what made you?
When we played the Minor it was the only real CIS tournament that could gather the top CIS teams, and all of the teams there were fighting not only for the prize pool but for the Main Qualifier spot. If our region had more tournaments of that caliber, and some of the tournaments had a spot for a big tournament, like, say, a LAN qualifier to a DreamHack or ESL event or whatever, more teams would come out of the CIS region because they could show what they are capable on LAN and compete with the European teams.
It's quite complicated for us to play online, crush mentioned it in his interview, the internet in our countries isn't super good, so it's quite hard to play online against European teams because it's still a big advantage for them. Our ping is usually twice as high, so that makes it easier for smaller teams that just do hit-and-runs, rushing and hitting headshots, to win in an online BO1 qualifier. Those qualifiers are a gamble because 300 teams are playing BO1s for one spot and if you're not 300% focused you can lose a map and you have to wait for the next chance which may be months away. Some teams can't wait that long, and if they're not patient enough they'll make changes or even disband...
We need competition in the region, and what could help that develop is having LANs.
The first period of Vega Squadron as an internationally recognized team had Mir and keshandr, then you struggled for a little time when they left. What is it that clicked now?
This all changed before the Major because it's a LAN event. We were struggling online during practices and officials, and we weren't able to show up individually. Maybe it's the LAN hype, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with your teammates, everyone hyped and filled the emotions of the upcoming games, but the players just start to show much better form than online.
We always knew we can compete on LAN because everyone plays so different than online. Our goal is to play like we play in practice. If we came here and started to play really slow, executing in the last 20 seconds, that would be wrong. We would know we're not playing our game and that would prevent us from winning matches.
We had a one-week bootcamp before the Major with like a 20% win rate on practice games. We played like eight maps a day, so it was like 60 maps and we won a fifth of them. We were still confident going to the Major, though, because we knew it was LAN and that the teams we were facing wouldn't play the same way they did online. They disrespected us online and don't let us do what we want to do in practice, but those results didn't show any real level of preparation. It also didn't break us mentally because we knew they'd be completely different teams offline.
You said teams don't respect you that much online, do you think they underestimate you offline?
They may underestimate us, but the main thing is what I said before, they don't play offline as they do online. The only team that is playing the same is ENCE, and they're in the grand final now. They're confident when they some aggressive plays and they do it offline as well. Other teams, they start playing some weird style if they get stuck because if they see that what they're doing doesn't work they start to invent stuff on-the-fly which is really hard to do. Only a few teams can think of stuff during the game that will actually work straight away.
To close it off, it's grand final time, what will be the keys to Vega Squadron lifting the trophy?
The team that can play the final less nervous will win. It's a bit of a cliché, but the team that makes fewer mistakes will take the whole thing. Maybe the crowd will be able to make them a bit uncomfortable. The crowd is hyping everything up and cheering for us, which can only help us and make us better. It will come down to how the teams feel during the match and you can't really predict that. It's a matter of the moment and how each team will feel during it.